On Going Green we get the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurs, leaders, and scientists, in the renewable energy and cleantech space, and get to learn more about their vision for the future. We talk to companies big and small, non-profits, and solopreneurs. When we get the chance to talk to some of the bigger organizations in the industry, we don’t take it for granted. We had the opportunity to sit down with Eric Toff Bergman, Strategic Markets Sales Manager of SMA-Amerca, to learn more about what SMA is doing in the Photovoltaic technology and (PV) space.
Who is SMA-America?
SMA Solar Technology AG’s mission is to increase the availability and use of photovoltaics. By continually delivering advancements and innovations in systems technology, we make installation and operation of PV plants even simpler, more reliable and, above all, more cost-effective. SMA develops and manufactures highly efficient PV inverters for all installation sizes and power classes and for any grid specifications worldwide, regardless of the type of PV modules used. In turnover, SMA is the worldwide leader in this sector.
Eric Toff Bergman, Strategic Markets Sales Manager of SMA-Amerca
Eric, thank you for being here. Before we get started, can you tell us about your background:
I was born and raised on the east coast (DC and Philly). I attended Miami University in Ohio for undergrad, and have been in California ever since. I’ve been in the renewables sector for my entire professional career. Wind first, and then solar, which I’ve been working in for about 10 years. Most of my solar career has been working for 3rd party monitoring and asset management providers for solar.
As such, I am very interested in the long term operations, management and yield/performance optimization of solar PV plants and portfolios. I came to SMA about a year ago – it was an easy decision because they are known as being the most reliable inverters on the market and are one of the longest standing global inverter manufactures in the industry with over 40 years.
What caused you to get into your industry?
In short, it was more of a “why not get into renewables?” At the time I pivoted out Miami’s business school, renewables was an emerging, but high growth, industry. It was high tech which touched my engineering interest, but most of all it was going to help repair and preserve the environments that I love to spend time in when I am not working. As an avid surfer, runner, snowboarder, and lover of all things outdoors I wanted to make sure that my professional career had an impact on the things and places I care about most.
What trends are you seeing in your industry?
I am seeing a few trends:
- A focus on quality and reliability standards and testing for the equipment that goes into PV plants. In the early days people were asking “does this PV technology work today”. Now people are asking “will this work for 25 years at 99% efficiency with little to no failure risk”. The industry is finally starting to think 20-30 years out instead of 1 or 5 years out. I think that good for the market, the environment, and for anyone that uses energy (which is mostly everyone on this planet).
- The market understanding that data from all parts of a PV plant (inverter included) is gold to all stakeholders in every market type. Equipment (including inverters) is becoming more and more interconnected (think IoT) and stakeholders are using that data to make informed, data-driven decisions (both manually and automatically) around investments, suppliers, operations, and overall management of PV plants and portfolios.
What is one action item for our listeners and viewers to take away from this conversation?
The solar train has left the station and is running full steam ahead. No longer is there a conversation or argument around the economic feasibility of solar and wind. At this point, in nearly every state, a wind or solar plant is the cheapest power plant to finance, build, and operate – hard stop. That said, there is still strong influence in the public and private sector that is there to slow down the RE train.
My action item to listeners is to read the un-biased reports and facts about renewable energy to understand the benefit that renewable energy brings to everyone. Be a part of the conversation and do your best to be a part of the solution.
Where do you see the Photovoltaic Technology industry ten years from now?
I have a few ideas of where the industry will be ten years from now:
- I see the industry (and solar capacity) at least 3-4 times larger than it is today ten years from now. We’re in a hyper scale phase in the industry now. With the technology proven it’s simply a matter of how fast people can build.
- Storage will change EVERYTHING in our industry once it becomes cost competitive with traditional energy generation sources. While we are close…we are still not there yet in some areas of the country.
- Lastly, I see the industry (and really the services on the operational side) becoming more and more automated. The data from these plants grows more and more every day, and with that data, people are creating AI based models and algorithms that automate many of the services and processes that are done manually today. A great example of how SMA is leading the charge on this is our Smart Connected monitoring service.
Eric, thank you for taking the time to educate us about SMA-America, and your vision for the future of Photovoltaic Technology.
Eric is going to be an upcoming guest on the Going Green podcast. Hosted by Dylan Welch, the Going Green podcast highlights leaders in renewable energy, Photovoltaic Technology, cleantech, and sustainability.